Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Asteroid Mining / Asteroid Deflector / Asteroid Lasso

I love going to the Moon and Mars as much as anyone, but you can't do every project, and developing our asteroid detection/redirection technology is something we should all be able to get behind. Just ask the dinosaurs...oh, that's right you can't because they are all dead because they had no space program.
-- Ray Patnaude

NASA is designing a system which ultimately will lead into our old standard notion, sending missions, eventually manned missions, to other bodies orbiting our Sun. The immediate crux is the determination of an asteroid's path and destination, which most should realize is fairly awesome if you consider it.  Asteroids themselves are what some consider minor planets.
NASA is expected to receive $100 million to jump-start a bold asteroid-capture mission, which would drag a 500-ton space rock near the moon for research and exploration purposes.
"NASA is in the planning stages of an innovative mission to accomplish the president's challenge of sending humans to visit an asteroid by 2025 in a more cost-effective and potentially quicker time frame than under other scenarios," a senior administration official told
"This mission would combine the best of NASA's asteroid identification, technology development and human exploration efforts to capture and redirect a small asteroid to just beyond the moon to set up a human mission using existing resources and equipment, including the heavy-lift rocket and deep-space capsule that have been under development for several years," the official added, referring to NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft. [NASA's Asteroid-Capture Plan (Video)]
In this case specifically you will find an asteroid set to orbit our own natural satellite. Nominally an object achieving Lunar Orbit is an artificial object, a probe or a manned Apollo module. In this case it is a natural object whose path and destiny are altered by artificial means, which means that it will not be too unlike the Apollo missions, except that the point of departure will be severely different.  Nevertheless it will be the first time man has achieved Lunar orbit in decades!

This could well be the most radical step ever taken toward extended manned missions further and further throughout our Solar System.

Best of all, it is achievable, with the technology we have today.
The Keck study estimated that a robotic spacecraft could drag a 23-foot near-Earth asteroid (NEA) — which would likely weigh about 500 tons — into a high lunar orbit for $2.6 billion. The returns on this initial investment are potentially huge, the researchers said.
"Experience gained via human expeditions to the small returned NEA would transfer directly to follow-on international expeditions beyond the Earth-moon system: to other near-Earth asteroids, [the Mars moons] Phobos and Deimos, Mars and potentially someday to the main asteroid belt," the Keck team wrote in a feasibility study of their plan.
The mission would also help develop asteroid-mining technology, advocates say, and advance scientists' understanding of how our solar system took shape more than 4.5 billion years ago.
A major benefit of this mission, especially if among the "natural resources" found in the asteroid is water, is the opportunity to save money and energy used for space travel.
Visited repeatedly by international and commercial robot probes, the captured asteroid will serve as a scientific and industrial guinea pig, giving up its scientific mysteries and sparking the birth of a space natural resources industry.
In the ten-year, $2.6-billion venture, private firms will work with NASA to demonstrate how to extract water, construction material, and even strategic metals from the millions of asteroids that lurk near Earth’s orbit. Access to water, rocket fuel, chemicals, and metals from the asteroids and the Moon would lower dramatically the cost of exploring space, and launch profitable ventures from mining to manufacturing.
The first and most versatile product to go after is water --“space gold.” Water from Earth now costs $10,000 a pound to haul to orbit. Why not extract it in space, where we need it?
The water from a single 500-ton asteroid is worth about $1 billion at today’s launch prices. Baked out of surface minerals with concentrated sunshine, robotic miners can split water into the powerful rocket fuels hydrogen and oxygen, highly valuable to NASA and its partner space agencies.
Private space firms like Planetary Resources, Inc. and Deep Space Industries already plan to prospect and extract water from nearby asteroids. Access to a nearby asteroid would bring us closer to the day when industry can save NASA and its partners billions while turning a profit from space-produced materials. 
Now we need to catalog the existing asteroids in a more complete fashion.

What no one is talking about is the use of weaponizing asteroids as deadly space rocks. One can easily claim an accident if one of these came down on a rival space colony or outright enemy nation. If this is accomplished correctly a given mad scientist can even claim it was just a natural disaster.

Truth be told a space-based rail gun is not actually necessary for this kind of thing. We can do it with the technology we have, including the Asteroid Lasso craft mentioned prior, and just use gravity along with applied mathematics.

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